Dear Gallant Girl,
This is not really an advice column email but I do need some advice! I am not a mother, but I am an aunt to 4 young girls. I am originally from Washington, but right now I live in Harstad, Norway, so I need books I can order online.
I was hoping you could recommend some books that have strong characters (preferably females) that are age appropriate for my nieces. I am not up on children’s literature at all!
Devon is 3. She cannot read yet, but my brother and sister-in-law read to her all of the time. She loves books and stories! She is a spitfire and unafraid of being herself. I love this about her! I would like a book with a character that she can identify with.
Lea is 7 and she is really fascinated with everything. She loves to learn new things! I am fascinated by her because at such a young age she retains a lot of information, so something educational might be a good way to go for her.
Sierra is 9 and she is sensitive and a socially conscious person. She is kind of struggling in school with feeling awkward and “different”. She spends a lot of time writing and reading. She also really loves animals and volunteers at a rescue shelter for sick and wounded animals. Just to give you an idea of the kind of heart she has! She is an animal and nature lover.
Leslie is 13. She is pretty bold. She’s very opinionated and is exploring her individuality now. She’s a great big sister! She really looks out for her sisters, especially Sierra, the 9 year old.
I hate to admit this but I am not real familiar with the classics myself, so I wouldn’t be opposed to one or two of those for the older girls at all. I just worry that I will pick something that is not intriguing or goes over their heads for their ages.
I would like 1 book for the 2 younger girls, 2 books for Sierra, and 4 books for Leslie.
I need to make these purchases within the next week or sooner. Sorry for the crunch. I understand if you can’t get back to me in time.
Thank you for your suggestions!
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Dear Gallant Girl Cheryl,
I LOVE it that you wrote in asking for book suggestions! This is right up my alley! However, my daughter is home sick today, so as she’s sitting here with me in the kitchen (making peanut butter balls), it gives me the chance to include her in your response letter as I pick her brain. She is 11, so she is right around the same ages as your older nieces, and can remember being the ages of the younger two. ::grin::
So, here is what we came up with:
For Devon, I recommend Stand Tall Molly Lou Melon. My daughter and I loved this book when she was a little girl! Not only did we fall in love with Molly’s quirky, unique, and tenacious spirit, but we also loved (and collected) all books illustrated by David Catrow — we just love his illustrations! This book touches on bullying and promotes a positive self-image. You can never start too early in raising confident children, and books are an excellent source to reinforce those lessons, every day. If Devon ends up falling in love with Molly the way that my daughter and I did, “Molly” has other books to keep reading to get to know her! Here is the synopsis of Stand Tall Molly Lou Melon:
Meet Molly Lou Melon: she’s “just taller than her dog,” with “buck teeth that stuck out so far, she could stack pennies on them,” and a voice that brings to mind “a bullfrog being squeezed by a boa constrictor.” She also possesses huge insect-like eyes. In fact, young readers may actually gasp when they get a good look at the fearless first-grader in Catrow’s (She’s Wearing a Dead Bird on Her Head) double spread, extreme close-up portrait. Thanks to her grandmother, the protagonist possesses seemingly indomitable self-esteem but will it survive a move to a new school and a bully named Ronald Durkin? Newcomer Lovell doesn’t offer any real surprises in her fable there’s never any doubt that Molly Lou Melon will charm her classmates with her eccentric talents (which include making a paper snowflake the size of a school room), or that even Ronald Durkin will capitulate and join her fan club. What keeps the storytelling fresh is the crisp prose and the heroine’s full-speed-ahead determination; the story never dallies too long on the potentially saccharine message. Catrow’s full-bleed pencil-and-watercolor illustrations, awash in ripe colors and animated by slapstick exaggeration, radiate a winningly eccentric elegance. Ages 4-8. (Sept.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
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For Lea (and I *just* mentioned this book on Gallant Girls the other day), but our first thought was Girls Think of Everything: Stories of Ingenious Inventions by Women. When my daughter was about Lea’s age, she got this book in her Easter basket. She has loved it and referred to it many times. It was very liberating for her to read about all of these women who invented very everyday things that we use every day! And like your niece Lea, my daughter retains all the information she reads, so it’s really stupendous when conversation comes up about something that may or may not seem commonplace to someone else, and she can give the background story on how it came to be into our existence! Likewise, the book is graphically very visually pleasing.
Here’s the synopsis of this book:
In kitchens and living rooms, in garages and labs and basements, even in converted chicken coops, women and girls have invented ingenious innovations that have made our lives simpler and better. Their creations are some of the most enduring (the windshield wiper) and best loved (the chocolate chip cookie). What inspired these women, and just how did they turn their ideas into realities?
Tells the story of how women throughout the ages have responded to situations confronting them in daily life by inventing such items as correction fluid, space helmets, and disposable diapers.
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As for Sierra, my daughter came up with one and I came up with the other. My daughter chose Wonder by R.J. Palacio. She read this book last year and could not have loved it more! She loved it so much that she lent it out to a lot of her friends, and even suggested that I should read it. It is SUCH an inspiring story! If Sierra is going through some troubled times at school, she needs a story with a refreshing narrative — this book has it! There’s a lot of heart, hope, and courage in this book. There’s also a lot of struggles with acceptance. I won’t copy & paste the synopsis because this response letter is getting pretty hefty in size, but I will share the link.
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*I* chose The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett for Sierra. It is one of my top 5 favorite books, and it is one of my top 5 favorite books because Mary Lennox is one of my very favorite characters of all-time! Although I know that Sierra needs to read some books with characters she can identify with and sympathize with, she also could use some of Mary Lennox’s outspoken frankness and center of self. Mary is full of candor and curiosity in a time that has made her gruff, but as the story goes on — and she seldom takes no for an answer — she rediscovers her heart and it softens throughout the new journey she’s on. This book could show Sierra how to be sensitive and strong all at the same time. I can’t fathom there’s a young girl in the world who wouldn’t love this classic story of enchantment, self-discovery, friendship (in the oddest of places) and redefining love. I have read this book more times than I have any other book. I credit this book with a lot of the reason I have been able to keep magic in my soul and to see the beauty in things that seem to want to make me dead inside. I truly believe that every young woman should read this book in their lifetime. (You can read the summary on the aforementioned Amazon link.)
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As for Leslie, my daughter recommends the Divergent series by Veronica Roth. I am sure this has NOTHING to do with the fact that she’s reading Insurgent right now. ::smirk:: She recently started a “Book Club” with two of her classmates at school (this is not school-related; they are just discussing the book on the playground during recess). She loved Divergent, though! I have to confess that I have not read these books yet. I started Divergent and then my second cousin published a book about my relatives — The Day the Whistle Blew by (my cousin) Marilyn Nesbit Wood — and I quit Divergent to read that. Nonetheless, I know a lot of children Leslie’s age who have loved this book series, so since you say she’s bold and daring, I think it might be a great idea for her to read the books if she hasn’t already.
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As for me, I would suggest books like The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl, and even The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. For girls Leslie’s age, I like true stories (or stories based off true life stories) as educating, enlightening, and empowering accounts of resilience and fortitude. I think there’s nothing more powerful than teaching young women at this age just what other young women their age have had to endure and survive through. At her age, first world problems become a major focus, and it’s hard to have perspective when their worlds are so small, but this world is NOT small, and no one is immune or invincible to it getting bigger in a flash. As much as I believe in fostering magic, I believe in fostering a very true sense of reality, too. Right now, she is being severely shaped by everything she touches, daily. If she reads books about the struggles and survival and stoutheartedness of other “people” her age, than she might just become one of those stouthearted young people who grow up to be stouthearted adults, if she isn’t already well on her way (which, it sounds like she is, by what you say!). I am all about reminding everyone in this world what it’s been through, what it’s suffered/suffering through, and what it has overcome. Even in defeat, there’s almost always courage to be taken away from it. These books will prove her that, and possibly change her forever, like some of them did me when I was her age or younger.
(I also have one more suggestion for Leslie that I will omit because I bought it for both my daughter and stepdaughter for Christmas this year (and my daughter will surely be reading this after her contributions), so I will include it as a P.S.)
Happy ordering! Happy reading! Happy holidays, Gallant Girl Cheryl! And, if you have the time to read, I also suggest that YOU read some of these books, as well! You won’t regret it.
— Heather Angelika
Founder/Owner of Gallant Girls